These days, technology is just as much a part of golf as a good swing. Both professional and amateur players are constantly seeking an edge from the best equipment and engineering breakthroughs.
Your Android Wear watch can pair up with your smartphone to be an integral part of your game. There are already some great apps that take advantage of advances in wearable technology. I spent some time on the range and the course to try out many of the apps that promise to improve your golf score.
Hole19 maintains a database of just about any private and public course imaginable - even the par-3 River Park Golf Center that I used for my test run. If you want to give it a thorough test, sign up with a Google or Facebook account so you can keep track of your rounds and the other various stats that Hole19 collects.
When you’re about to start a round, you can find your course and then get an overview of each hole. Checking this along the round is a great replacement for buying a yardage book or relying on the sometimes outdated signs along a course.
With the map you’ll get a readout of the distance from the tee to the green. You can drag the target to match where you want to aim. The pin placement is not updated daily (usually Google Map satellite data takes several months) so you’ll have to pay attention to where you want to shoot.
While playing you can then use Hole19 to keep score. Just touch the clickers to add strokes—you can specify shots putts, or add penalty strokes if you send a ball into the water.
It’s also smart for par 3 holes; you just have to touch the “putt” button twice and it will automatically give you a score of par, as you didn’t send that first putt 120 yards yourself.
Hole 19 saves your stats and puts your data into colorful charts. It’s helpful for learning more about your game by analyzing your round data. For example if you’re having a ton of 3-puts or missing the fairway and resulting in too many shots to the green, you’ll be able to figure that out.
Unlike other apps, it doesn’t try to sell you a bunch of extra features or upgrades. You get what you get, and the results are rather great.
Golf Swing Analyzer compiles more stats than you’ll ever need
There’s an adage about practice making perfect. For my golf game it feels like a lie, but that doesn’t stop me from dropping $10 on a giant bucket of balls at the driving range.
Golf Swing Analyzer at least makes it more fun, using your Android Wear smartwatch to pull in data about multiple aspects of your swing.
I thought the implementation of the app on the watch was rather good. When you go to swing, you’ll get a notice that you’re lining up your shot. After pausing, wait for the green light to swing away.
Then, you’ll get a ton of statistics about your swing—potentially more than you’ll need. I found the swing speed to be a little consistent, however. When hitting about 30 balls with my pitching wedge it would vacillate between 182 mph and a paltry 35 mph. If I slowed down, then I got more consistent readings of around 110mph, my normal swing speed (at least the last time it was measured by a teaching pro).
It’s worth trying out to see how you do, as performance may vary based upon your Android Wear watch model.
GolfShot is your course companion
But enough with the range. No matter how much you practice, sometimes it’s more fun to just jump on the course and play a round.
GolfShot is another good companion, pairing up your Android Wear smartwatch with your phone for a tech-infused round of golf.
What I like best about the Android Wear integration is that GolfShot puts the hole distance in large, easy-to-read letters. So I was able to walk up to the tee and just swipe on my watch to know what I was in for on the next hole.
It doesn’t let you enter your score via the watch, however. You’ll have to dig out your phone for that. However, when you switch holes on the watch screen the smartphone app matches your progress.
There’s a ton of more dedicated features, but they will cost you $30 per year. Included is the ability to link your official USGA handicap. You also get a series of more dynamic scorecards.
GolfPad is the best scorecard
The GolfPad interface is much like a traditional scorecard, which offers some advantages. You can glance at what the par is for the upcoming hole or get an overview of how well (or terrible) you’re doing.
The big benefit here over paper, however, is GPS integration. It can plot your point on each hole, giving you a better idea on how far you have to go for your next shot.
Entering your score is also pretty easy. There are buttons at the bottom for adding in a shot, putt, or penalty. However, I liked the Quick Mode best, which strips away much of the interface and gives you easy buttons for entering in your score.
I thought GolfPad was better for checking out the round while grabbing a snack after the ninth and 18th holes. Unless you’re in the shade it’s just easier to view the same kind of information on a paper scorecard. Though the GPS is pretty neat, and may be worth it if you want to try out the extra accuracy.
The watch integration is part of a pretty crazy tagging system that costs $99, where you can record the GPS position and club used for each shot. To me it’s a little distracting, but golf is a sport known for its tech excesses at times.
Is quantified golf better?
Whether you want to completely tech out your round may depend upon how you approach golf. If you’re competitive and trying to step up your game, then these tools are worth trying out. They’ll certainly enhance your play and be a good conversation piece next time you play with others.
Yet for some, golf is about escape. If it’s a place to unplug and enjoy the scenery (especially if that’s where your ball takes you) then you may wish to stick to the paper and pencil.